Annette Benning and Jamie Bell may have told us that Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool in their 2017 Gloria Grahame biopic, but there have been plenty of film stars coming to Liverpool in recent years.
The city has been standing in for 1970s Washington DC, 1920s New York, Edwardian England and many other places around the world and down through the years. For the eagle-eyed viewer, Liverpool can be seen a lot on the small screen this autumn, making an appearance in many of the top period dramas that are being shown.
Big Screen Success
Liverpool is no stranger to the camera, with a whole host of famous films shot in the city in the past. From indie films, such as Letter to Brezhnev and Dancing Thru the Dark, to big budget blockbusters, the city is rarely off the screen. Harry Potter raced through the Mersey Tunnel in The Deathly Hallows Part 1, while his predecessor, Newt Scamander, was seen all over the city as Liverpool stood in for early 20th century New York. The tunnel has also featured in the Fast and Furious franchise. Even marvel hero, Captain America has visited the city, as Albert Dock doubled as Brooklyn Docks for The First Avenger.
Of course, the city is better known around the world for its music, with the Beatles blazing a trail in the 60s and modern Liverpool bands like The Wombats a regular favourite as far away as Australia’s Triple J Hottest 100, with eleven entries since their first appearance in 2007 (although Oddschecker doesn’t give them much chance this year). This has naturally led to a number of music-based Liverpool films, from the iconic Beatles movies to the recent Beatles themed Yesterday.
The Ideal Location
The reason Liverpool features so often on both the big and small screen is its classic period architecture. Fans of The Crown will see the city as part of Olivia Coleman’s visit to Washington in 1976, with the Cunard Building and North John Street standing in for the American capital. You’ll also see Liverpool in a new period drama version of War of the Worlds, which has garnered rave reviews. This Edwardian sci-fi thriller used several locations around the city for their period detail, as well as staging the crash of the invading space aliens in the woods of Ainsdale just along the coast.
One of the UK’s most popular period dramas, Peaky Blinders, has been filmed in Liverpool for over seven years. Set in 1929, season five features local landmarks including the Tobacco warehouse at Stanley Dock, Port Sunlight and Dale Street’s State Ballroom. Set a decade later, in 1939, World on Fire traces the story of the first year of the second world war and includes scenes set in Liverpool and nearby Chester.
The numbers for Liverpool productions are very impressive, with 366 different film projects taking place in 2018 alone. An average of four different productions were filming in the city every single day. The industry generated an estimated £16m for the local economy, but that is small change compared to what is to come.
Film and TV drama fans should get used to seeing the city on screen, because with the announcement of a brand-new film-making facility, Liverpool is set to become a regional hub for the industry. Despite a major fire, the former Littlewoods Building on the outskirts of the city is being converted to house two huge, 20,000ft sound stages equipped with state-of-the-art production technology. By keeping production in the city, as well as location filming, the move is expected to raise the annual economic impact to around £200m.
Hollywood is here
With great period locations, film friendly local authorities and brand-new production facilities coming soon, Liverpool is set to cement its place on screens big and small. So maybe local band Frankie don’t need to go to Hollywood after all. These days, it’s Hollywood that’s coming to them.